Embracing Change

The word “change” is enough to make many people’s teeth chatter like a Halloween skeleton. And here’s a change big enough to send fear spiraling through the bones of even the most well-adjusted business owner: having the majority of the management team retire in succession over the period of two years.

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That’s the scenario Melvin Mark has been preparing for in the past few years. Founded in 1945, the locally-owned firm offers an integrated mix of commercial real estate services including sales and leasing, property management, tenant improvements, financing and development. They’re juggling a lot of balls at any given time, and replacing four members of the executive team added a basketball-sized one to their load.

But long-time leaders Jim Mark and Scott Andrews say they’ve seen this “review and refresh” process as an opportunity to grow and offer clients an even higher level of service. “I’m excited to change,” says Andrews, president and principal broker for Melvin Mark Brokerage Company. “I’ve been really excited to come in the past few months and see how things have evolved.”

Melvin Mark has never shied away from change. “Commercial real estate is a competitive business,” says Mark, the company’s CEO. “It demands an ability to adapt and adjust to market conditions.” As more out-of-town commercial real estate companies move into Portland, it would be easy for the current players in the field to get squeezed out.

Instead, Melvin Mark is keeping their business fresh by hiring employees who can make strategic improvements. Company controller Dwight Knapp’s expertise in accounting technology is helping the firm implement software and systems expansions and upgrades. Vice president of operations Kelley Brewster is incorporating best practices learned during 20 years of experience at larger brokerage houses.

One of the best ways to keep current in a changing world is to hire younger people and combine their fresh perspective with the experience of a seasoned staff, Mark says. He and Andrews had not focused on the creative office space niche until a young broker brought the opportunity to their attention. Based on his idea, they turned an outdated, under-utilized retail development into what would become the Jama Software building – a flagship working environment for creative businesses.

Melvin Mark is now getting ready to renovate their office based on this model. An open floor plan will mirror what’s happening in the marketplace and lead to greater cross-pollination between departments. Updating the physical space to be more in line with the company’s mental space is a change that should also get into the bones of employees – in a bone-thrilling (rather than a bone-chilling) kind of way.